Sometimes, we speak in terms of Expectations being met or of Expectations being dashed. But really, are our Expectations ever just “tested?” Are Expectations anything more than our own? Aren’t they interpretations through our own context of cues and clues and markers?
And what are “Expectations” anyway? Some would define an Expectation as something you anticipate (good or bad) that will occur in the future. One of our Buddhist friends says “Expectations are preplanned disappointments.” Usually though, when any of us have an Expectation of some thing or some one we have some knowledge and some reason to believe that some event (or series of events) will occur in the future.
It seems that Expectations are born when we look at our past and current experiences and try to project what might happen tomorrow. We take our understandings of things past and apply them forward to how we Expect things / people / systems to work in the future. But unfortunately we can never control all of the circumstances and assure how things will work out.
We often approach Holy Week through a lens of Expectation. Beginning with the high energy of Palm Sunday, we walk through the changing sea of faces in Jerusalem as the popular tide turns and a frenzy builds around Jesus and his ministry. In our own high moments of life, our Expectations about personal achievement and ability can cloud our view of what is best not for us but for the world.
The lectionary this week examines some different Expectations – specifically Expectations about the Kingdom of God.
In Genesis, Jacob rests his head on a stone to sleep, weary from his travels. In the night, he has a vision. In the vision, the Lord is showing him the land before him, promising that this land will belong to him and his offspring. The Lord promises to be with Jacob until the Lord has done what has been promised. (Hmm…speaking of Expectation, do we ever want to Expect God NOT to be with us?) In recognition of this important vision and promise, Jacob sets a stone in this place, consecrating it with oil, naming the place Bethel (God’s House). In our heads, we sort of imagine that Jacob received this vision with elation – not dread of what it would take to get there or whether the Lord would really always be with him.
The Psalmist talks a little about Expectations he might have for God and Expectations God might have dreamed for the writer. He writes about what he believes to be the nature of God. He works with his culture’s Expectation that God is a combination of ever-present and all-knowing. He dreams of what the creation process looked like for him in particular and how it works for the world in general. The writer of this Psalm paints a picture of the world according to how he understands the nature of God and how he envisions…or Expects the world to work.
In Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome, we see him working with some fairly blatant Expectations. As we have seen prior to this passage he has a definite vision of the purpose of the Law and the purpose of the Spirit and how each of us as Children of God are to interact with the Law and the Spirit and how each of us are to benefit from the Law and the Spirit. He has some clear Expectations of what each individual believer’s responsibilities are and how those responsibilities relate to how the creation will resolve itself. Ask yourself if your Expectations meet Paul’s.
In the Matthew passage, we are introduced to another parable. Jesus is still using a plant metaphor, but this one seems more ominous. He talks about careful planting that is invaded at night by the enemy, who plants weed seeds amidst the good seed. In consideration of the good seed in the field, the Master does not destroy the plants in the field, but lets the good seed grow up beside the weeds, then calls the harvesters to remove the weeds – to be burned – and then to harvest the good grain. Jesus spares no explanation – it is just as it will be at the end of the age, “the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one.” Yikes.
The Bible is a framework on which we attempt to hang our Expectations. In the process, we may alter our understanding or the very meaning of the words that were passed along in these sacred texts. Do we xpect God to be always present? Do we Expect God to destroy weeds and only harvest the “good?” Do we Expect to be free from sin?
- Do you have Expectations of God?
- Does God have Expectations of you?
- Do you have Expectations of yourself?
- Do you have Expectations of your community?
- Does your Community of Expectations of you?
“We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aid, but by an infinite Expectation of the dawn.”--Henry David Thoreau